Great Idea Then
Editor: The Sun and even the lieutenant governor are finally talking about efficiency in government. In his column of May 26, "Restocking the State's Cupboards," Barry Rascovar indulges in legislature-bashing for displaying "cowardice and timidity" in dealing with the state's fiscal crisis. He suggests that to solve our problems we emulate MNC and USF&G; and eliminate jobs and cut programs.
One thing Mr. Rascover needs to remember is that many of the problems faced by these two large corporations were directly related to unsound actions taken by their respective CEOs -- who were subsequently fired or forced to resign.
Further, he states, "Agencies have to be merged to reduce overlap and size, improve efficiency and cut red tape. Programs identified as expendable have to be phased out, despite public pressure."
In a June 18 editorial, "Getting Smarter in Annapolis," The Sun suggests that, "money alone is not the answer to all social problems. Better management and more innovative approaches often are enough to get the job done." The editorial even quotes the lieutenant governor: " 'There is a tremendous amount of fat, a tremendous amount of inefficiency' in state agencies. 'The time has come,' he said, 'to start eliminating duplicate layers of management.' "
In 1989, 1990 and 1991 I introduced legislation to create a Maryland Commission on Efficiency in Government: a state level Grace Commission to do just what The Sun, Mr. Rascovar and the lieutenant governor seem to be suggesting now.
Where was The Sun over the last three years, when their strong editorial support might have helped pass such a bill? Where were they when the governor consistently, each year, opposed such legislation? Where were they this past session when the House of Delegates passed an amended version of the bill 129-4, only to see it die in the Senate on the last day of session?
If it's a good idea now, it was a great idea three years ago. If it had been enacted then, just maybe we wouldn't be in the fiscal crisis we are now.
ohn J. Bishop.
The writer represents the Ninth District, Baltimore County, in the House of Delegates.
Clock is Ticking
Editor: As the euphoria from the gulf war winds down, the American people are finally becoming aware of the Reagan-Bush legacy.
Reaganomics have left us with tax cuts for the rich, oversized military spending, deregulation, assaults on labor's rights to organize, assaults on women's reproductive rights, poverty, drugs, crime and homelessness.
Soon the middle class and poor working class -- which comprise the majority of Americans -- will realize that they've been conned by the ruling class of politicians, mass media and corporations.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Riots are the language of the unheard." When the people have finally had enough, hopefully they won't riot but will collectively clean house on election day and choose lawmakers who truly serve human need instead of corporate greed.
We want decent jobs, affordable housing, national health insurance, good education and the ability to have an old age with dignity.
Take heed, ruling class. We, the working-class majority, are getting more angry and impatient every day and we won't wait much longer for social justice and economic security. The clock is ticking.
Gerald Ben Shargel.
One of a Zillion
Editor: I guess you know you're in for it. I'm one of about a zillion people, each of whom thinks he is Walter Sondheim's best friend. I react viscerally to the Opinion * Commentary item, "Planned Arrogance," by David Barton Jr., not one of the zillion.
The article is a self-serving attack upon and gross misrepresentation of the character of someone in whose debt I grow ever more deeply over a period of at least 40 years.
In a long and full life with friends and acquaintances over much of the world, I can think of no one to whom the word "arrogant" is more inappropriate. In the game of opposites, when the caller shouts "Sununu," the correct answer is, "Sondheim."
Walter has always been genuinely self-effacing, quick to give credit to others, particularly if there is a chance that someone may try to give credit to him. He has never stopped doing things to help others and he frustrates every effort to repay him in kind.
Walter is a lay member of the committee at the Hopkins Medical School that must decide whether a proposed clinical research pTC program meets the highest ethical standards. He has won the respect of every physician and clergyman on that committee for his innate fairness, kindness, thoughtfulness, good sense and modesty.
We used to play Scrabble. He would often let me win and when he couldn't prevent his winning, he would seem to be pleased only by the fact that we had such a large combined score. If I had an in with the right people, I'd put him up for sainthood.
The Sun goofed. I am hurt and disappointed that The Sun printed so obvious a jeremiad. The Sun owes the zillion of us an apology for the unfortunate headline.
Editor: Thank you for publishing Tim Baker's June 3 Opinion * Commentary article, "Successful Schools Are Right Under Our Noses." The Catholic schools and their staffs, especially teachers, are wearied from receiving little recognition and no accolades for their dedication and commitment to their students.
After Mr. Baker proposed that Baltimore City public schools can learn much from Catholic schools, I felt compelled to suggest just what the public schools can learn. However, I also see lessons the Catholic schools can learn from the public schools.
I am a Catholic school insider as a former student and middle school teacher. As a student, I knew that my expected performance was to be fueled by effort in school and at home. My school day ended only after I had done all homework.
As a teacher, I strove to instill a sense of responsibility in my students. The school in which I taught had a clearly outlined code of conduct accompanied by clearly defined consequences. never had a serious discipline problem, not even as a first-year teacher without any classroom experience.
When I did face students with haughty attitudes or lacking preparation, their accumulated offenses could land them in Saturday school, where they completed extra school work for five hours. Usually, this discipline worked. Schools' codes of conduct and consequences may vary, but consistency and fairness must be present.
Another ingredient enabled my fellow teachers and me to succeed in maintaining discipline. We were not afraid to expect hard work and respect from students. With parent support, we usually got what we wanted. Public schools cannot be afraid to build an atmosphere of high student expectations with mutual respect, and to consistently apply clearly defined consequences which will affect change in student behavior.
As Mr. Baker noted, the archdiocese's central office is unbelievably small -- just 16 people. While this clearly promotes autonomy for each school, the central office cannot provide support services which would greatly aid schools in meeting the needs of mainstream and special students.
Mr. Baker stated that Catholic schools teach "self-selected and highly motivated" students. This is not wholly true. Many students enter Catholic schools with learning disabilities and behavior problems.
Last summer, while participating in the Maryland Writing Project's Summer Institute for Teachers, I told a teacher from an area public school about one of my students. This student, a seventh grader, was years below grade level in reading. He participated vigorously in class, but his reading, spelling and subsequent writing deficiencies led to uncertainty and embarrassment in speech.
I explained that this student, who had transferred from public school the prior year, needed hours of daily tutoring, which I did not have the means or time to give. She asked, "Why not send him to your reading specialist?" I laughed -- not out of cruelty to her, but from the ridiculousness of my coming response.
"I teach in a Catholic school. We don't have reading specialists." Nor do we have special-education teachers, school psychologists, nor guidance counselors below the high school level. The Division of Catholic Schools has no money to support these "extra" positions, but neither do they offer the classroom teacher guidance or assistance in dealing with children possessing special needs.
I am certain that Baltimore City could benefit greatly if the public schools and Catholic schools were to share successful tactics and battle scars. If the public schools could learn lessons in imposing discipline and the Catholic schools could learn methods of supporting their teachers, many more city children would graduate high school with a sound education, prepared ** for the job market or for college.
$Christina Barbera Dushel.